Dorchester, Massachusetts (CNN) - Friends, family and colleagues gathered to pay tribute to Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy on Friday evening after tens of thousands had filed past the Democratic legend's casket throughout the day.
Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, who has tried to shepherd Kennedy's signature cause of universal health care through the Senate this year, summed up his appeal in three words: "People liked him."
"Some people born with a famous name live off of it. Others enrich theirs," Dodd said. "Teddy enriched his."
Kennedy died Tuesday night at age 77 after a 15-month battle with brain cancer. He had represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1962, leaving his stamp on "nearly every important law passed in the last half-century," Dodd said.
Kennedy became the patriarch of the first family of Democratic politics after the assassinations of his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, during the 1960s. One of Robert Kennedy's sons, Joseph P. Kennedy II, fondly recounted how "Uncle Teddy" looked after the children of his slain siblings.
"The truth of the matter is that for so many of us, we just needed someone to hang on to - and Teddy was always there to hang on to," he said. "He had such a big heart, and he shared that heart with all of us."
The wake was held at John Kennedy's presidential library in suburban Boston, where an estimated 45,000 people had filed past the senator's flag-draped casket by Friday evening.
The senator's funeral is scheduled for Saturday at Boston's Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston's Mission Hill section, with at least 40 of Kennedy's fellow senators and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush slated to attend.
President Barack Obama, who called Kennedy an "extraordinary leader" Wednesday, will deliver a eulogy at the funeral, according to several sources. Prime Minister Brian Cowen of Ireland, the famous clan's ancestral homeland, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are also expected to attend, a family spokesman told CNN.
Kennedy will be buried Saturday evening at Arlington National Cemetery, outside Washington - 95 feet south of the grave of Sen. Robert Kennedy, which is in turn just steps away from John Kennedy's burial site.
How many people live a better life today because of this man ? Millions and millions and millions.
I'm really enjoying Orrin Hatch's speech. I'm a democrat and am deeply touched at how even though he disagreed with Kennedy, they remained friends.
what happened to us that our parties are no longer this way?
In listening to his speech, somebody like him could convince me to vote for him- a Republican. There is no hate there or duplicity, just an honest, decent person. I hope the folks like him in the party would step to the front of their party. Only then will folks like me change our minds about that party.
Always for the working man..AND woman....May I offer my deepest sympathies to all. Perhaps in heaven now, We as Americans will have guidance to work together to fix the HC system....I pray for the Love of Jesus to Comfort this Beautiful Family.....sincerely, Candy Wilson , OHIO
God bless the Kennedys and may they find His comfort in their loss. The entire Kennedy family, very wealthy, gives back time and time again. In spite of any human error his life, Senator Kennedy, and all of the Kennedys have given their lives in the pursuit of helping the downtrodden. Thank you!
Having read some of the comments made by the right I can only say what baffoons they are. Ted Kennedy was a fighter for the middle class and wheather you agreed with him or not he never quit. His family have show to be a class act durning this trying time. They have been a family of public servents. We should all have such people inour familys
I simply want to say Thank you for sharing with the public all of your personal tributes to Senator Kennedy and his Life : my husband and I teared up, laughed, and appreciate all your personal heartfelt signature! Tonight, the nation was privilege to see, hear and feel public servants (and artists) are first and foremost real human beings and it is how one nation can look at each other with much more love and respect for themselves and for all the lives of the nation for the nation to see, hear and feel once again living a better life for all the people of your great nation! From the bottom of my heart I Thank you very much and God Bless you all!
The Republicans and Democrats who spoke, talked about honoring Senator Kennedy for healthcare reform. Let's get it done.
As a staunch conservative I was touched by the sentiments expressed by those remembering Kennedy last evening. Teddy was a special man even though his political beliefs were too liberal in my opinion.